Better Governing Now » Governor Urges Parents, Children To Discuss Underage Drinking


Governor Urges Parents, Children To Discuss Underage Drinking

    Publisher's note: The author of this post is Barry Smith, who is an associate editor for the Carolina Journal, John Hood Publisher.

'Talk it Out N.C.' campaign includes tips for parents

CJ Photo by Barry Smith
Kelly Langston, president of the North Carolina PTA, addresses a Dec. 1 press conference about underage drinking. To her left are Gov. Pat McCrory, ABC Chairman Jim Gardner, and Duke University researcher Bill Wilson.
    RALEIGH     Gov. Pat McCrory last week pleaded with parents across North Carolina to talk to their children about underage consumption of alcohol.

    "This is an issue that we've got to tackle at the kitchen table and at the point of sale," McCrory said during a Dec. 1 press conference.

    McCrory was joined by former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner, chairman of the ABC Commission, neuroscientist Bill Wilson from Duke University, and Kelly Langston, president of the North Carolina PTA.

    McCrory made a "call to action" for parents to engage their children in discussions about drinking during the holiday season "when alcohol and underage drinking are more prevalent."

    "Please talk to your children now, before the holidays," McCrory said. He said the state is setting up programs at universities in the state to counter the "right of passage" of underage drinking.

    "The problem is a lot of people aren't recovering from that right of passage," McCrory said.

    Wilson said he studies the effects of drugs, including alcohol on the adolescent brain.

    "The adolescent brain is far less sensitive to the sedative effects of drugs," Wilson said. "When you're an adolescent, you can stay awake to get intoxicated beyond all measure than an adult could stay awake to get intoxicated."

    Wilson said differing brain chemistry may allow adolescents to stay awake and somewhat functional as they get more intoxicated, unlike the sedative effect alcohol has on the central nervous systems of adults.

    "For that reason, I describe alcohol as the perfect-storm drug for kids," Wilson said. "They're not sedated. They're very intoxicated, and they have all the capacity to get into serious trouble that may lead to injury, or in fact death, as the governor said."

    Langston said the North Carolina PTA is taking the message to parents across the state.

    "Parents are an effective weapon against underage drinking," Langston said. "But we have to speak up." She said kids want to hear from parents and children genuinely seek their parents' help.

    "It's important that we start the conversation early with our children when topics are less difficult," Langston said. "Talking with our children should be an ongoing process, a natural progression as the conversations become more difficult and the issues more real."

    After the press conference, Langston was asked about the job parents have in teaching responsible drinking to their children even though it's illegal for children to drink alcohol until they're 21.

    Langston reiterated that it's important to talk things out.

    "Start talking with their kids early, about everything, even when they roll their eyes, even when they say 'I know,'" Langston said. "They're going to make mistakes, but you've got to hope that some of what you say - some of your beliefs - are going to stay with them. And I truly believe that if you talk often and your kids know what you believe and what you value, that's going to carry. Even when they make that mistake, they're going to call you when they make that mistake."

    The state's effort at combating underage drinking, called "Talk it Out," is one year old. The campaign has produced an advertisement showing parents repeatedly delaying a discussion with their child about underage drinking. The ad ends with the grieving parents walking into their child's bedroom after his death.

    Gardner produced an alternative ad showing a different result from parents who talked with their children about alcohol. That ad shows the parents talking to their son about previous conversations, and encouraging him to stay safe when he goes out with his friends.

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